Good morning! It's been over a full day since we've posted on the blog. When we returned yesterday night, we went straight to bed because it was a long, exhausting, wonderful day. It opened our eyes, hearts, and minds to an expanse of issues, ideas, and questions.
First, we attended a four-person panel where Chinese Christian leaders provided their opinions on the church in China. Here's just a few insights from the panel. China is big (obviously) so when we talk about the church in China, we often make oversimplified generalizations. For instance, one scholar spoke about house churches, or non-registered churches, in China. He presented at least three or four reasons why a church may not register with the government and that was only the tip of the ice berg. Another issue that was raised was the need of the church: better theological training for pastors and better quality education for theologians. Many more ideas were presented and I'm excited to see how their presentations align with our experience in mainland China.
Next we attended midday prayer which was Taize (wonderful) and had lunch. Can we talk about how amazing the food is here? Well, it is just amazing. I'm loving all the rice. After lunch we climbed to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (and I'm pretty sure I saw up to 13,000). In all, I counted roughly 394 steps on our ascension up the hill to the main area of the monastery (hills here are like mountains in MN. I'm definitely getting my exercise and a little sore this morning. Not bad, though). One word to describe this place: phenomenal. I wandered as far as I could at the monastery and found the most serene space. There was a hillside with a lot of Buddhas and then as you climbed to stairs to the top, there was a trickling waterfall with a large, white Buddha. After climbing all of the stairs, there was this picturesque landscape that allowed the visitor to take a moment to step back and contemplate the beauty of the place. It raised a lot of personal questions for me though such as how I view Buddhism as a religion. We will have a lecture today about the Buddhist religion so I must say I'm looking forward to that (geek alert).
After visiting the monastery, we had Chinese tea with Rev. Dr. John LeMond. What a gracious host! As we had Chinese tea and was explained the practice, I couldn't help but have deep theological reflection. The sense of community and being with the other is the focus while the tea presents the essential nourishment. The practice of Chinese tea is much like the richness of Communion for Christians, but that's a different blog post. During tea, Rev. Dr. LeMond told us a brief history of the center where we are staying.
Before dinner, we received a lecture about the church in Hong Kong. Again, the lecture was great and presented us with a lot of questions. The history of the church is closely tied to history of Hong Kong which is relatively new considering people had settled here in the Hong Kong area roughly 3000 years ago. The issues of the church in Hong Kong are rich and deep so it was great to here about them firsthand. I'll let others raise up their experiences about this lecture but let me say my brain was enlightened.
After dinner, we went to the Temple Street Market. Shopping is always great in my book so I had fun and got a couple fun things. I didn't haggle like I should have (I can't wait to perfect the artform when we go shopping on Friday) but I was fine with the amount I paid for them so I got over it quickly. Then our day ended because we were exhausted. The blessings on this trip are abundant and I am ever thankful. I'm singing in my head: In the Lord, I'll be ever thankful. In the Lord, I will rejoice. Look to God... A perfect song for the moment. I will rejoice for a new day of learning, culture, and opportunity has come (even though it's raining here-at least it's not snow!)